Making the Case for Len Coming Back

Let me preface this argument by saying there's at least a 75% chance that Alex Len will accept the lure of the money being thrown his way as a certain NBA lottery pick. That being said, there's a solid argument to be made for him staying in school.

I saw an ESPN 30-for-30 segment about professional athletes who wound up penniless despite millions of dollars, and a pretty solid career. We hear about the multi-million-dollar signing bonuses and annual salaries, but can't fully grasp the realities. If that money is well invested, yes, the player can be set for life; but there are some things we seldom consider.

TAXES: If a player gets a $3 million signing bonus, Uncle Sam claims close to half of it. If the player gets $1 million per year, the same rule applies: Uncle Sam gets his cut. If the player is good enough (famous enough) to make endorsement money, the same rule applies. That still amounts to a lot of money to those of us who don't earn that kind of money, but I start here to put those dollar figures into perspective.

LEECHES & WOMEN: When many players finally see that first huge paycheck, many are compelled - rightly or wrongly - to buy their parent(s) a new home, and/or car. Friends come out of the woodwork, suggesting they invest thousands of dollars in this get-rich-quick idea they have which fails far more often than it succeeds, or simply give or loan them money that never gets repaid.

Alex is probably no different than any other male: We like women. And most women like men. Some women especially like men with money. When those women get pregnant, the men with money are on the hook for child support, or marriage. Assuming that marriage falls apart, he's on the hook for alimony and child support, for 18 years or more. That could amount to a ton of money every year, for long beyond a player's career comes to an end. That figure can be negotiated down when a player's career ends, but the bill - however large - still come due.

THE PLAYER AND PERSONAL EXPENSES: Athletes are competitive by nature; and that, in part, is what makes them great, and worthy of the big bucks. But that same competitive nature can contribute to their downfall: They feel compelled to compete when it comes to personal belongings, too. First, it's a house (not a double-wide, not a starter home, and not a three-bedroom rancher); not just a house, a mansion; and they have the money, so they'll pay full price, and usually finance it. They have more money than they ever dreamed they'd have, and they want a mansion to keep up with the Joneses. They also want a car; generally not a Ford, Chevy or Toyota, but a Ferrari, Mercedes, (or both) or something even more expensive; again, to keeep up ith the Joneses.

Every professional athlete hires an agent, who gets a percentage of their income (bonuses, salaries and endorsements). They also usually hire a financial advisor. If that advisor invests the money poorly, the athlete won't be set for life (assuming he hasn't succumbed to the other pratfalls he faces). Sometimes, atheletes rely on (hire) friends, family, or parents to act as financial advisors, despite not being qualified to fill that role - another disaster.

THE ALTERNATIVE: Dollar signs are very alluring. But the reality is: A professional athletic career doesn't last very long. They need to consider what they'll do when their career ends. A free college education can go a long way at that point in their life; whether that's a degree in business, finance, marketing, communications, or anything else. Three things keep players from falling into that trap: 1) Maturity; 2) Good, solid, honest advise; and/or 3) Luck.

Is Alex ready for the NBA? If we look at the players who are successful at the next level, how many of those players have the skills they need to compete when they leave college? He certainly has the height to be a good NBA player. Does he have the bulk? Does he have the handles? Does he have the post moves? Does he have all of the shots he'll need? Is he assertive enough in the paint to be successful in the league? If Alex, or any player, leaves too early, their career can be short-lived. He'll probably be a lottery pick this year. Is the difference between being a #5 pick in the draft this year based on potential better than being a #12 pick who is ready to play (maybe start) when he leaves college?

Alex Len has a decision to make. It's Mark Turgeon's job to let him know the truth about what he faces (in terms of his skillset, and what awaits him as he enters the next level in basketball and life); while NBA scouts, and Alex's friends and family (who likely don't know the truth, only the dollar signs) are lobbying him as well. For Alex's sake, I sincerely hope Turge takes his responsibility seriously. I am in no position to say what's best for Alex. And while on the surface, the lure of the big money seems to make his decision a no-brainer, there is a solid argument to be made for him to stay another year, or maybe two.

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